The best running shirts for men are like the best offensive lineman in football.
They’re the best when you don’t notice them. Just like an offensive lineman who protects his quarterback, the best running shirts for men protect us from chafing, trapped moisture, and being too hot or too cold. And not only does a good shirt lead to better training or race-day performance, it also puts the runner’s mind at ease that they won’t cause chafing.
Finding the best men’s running shirt can pose a challenge because there are so many options, types of material, and other considerations. Popular running brands have a wide variety in their collections, and so do some of the lesser-known brands. There are endless variations in materials, sizing, and fit. So how do you know which shirts to trust to keep you comfortable during your key training runs and, of course, on race day?
The iRunFar team researched nearly 100 shirts and tested several dozen top contenders so that we could find the best in each category. These shirts accompanied our testers on long runs, short runs, hot days, cooler days, through the mountains, and on the trails. You get the idea. After putting these shirts through their paces, we chose the top performers and developed this guide for your convenience.
For more background information on the best men’s running shirts, see our tips on how to choose the best shirts and frequently asked questions below the picks. You can also check out our methodology for this guide.
You can also check out our best running shirts for women guide.
Here are links to each of the top recommendations:
- Best Overall Running Shirt for Men: Ultimate Direction Nimbus Tee
- Best Wool Running Shirt for Men: Black Diamond Rhythm T-Shirt
- Best Hot Weather Running Shirt for Men: Montbell Cool Light T
- Best Snap Running Shirt for Men: rabbit High Country SS
- Best Budget Running Shirt for Men: Under Armour Streaker Run Short Sleeve
- Best Cheap as Heck Running Shirt for Men: Decathlon Kalenji Run Dry+ Running T-Shirt
Best Overall Running Shirt for Men: Ultimate Direction Nimbus Tee ($70)
We’re tempted to call the Ultimate Direction Nimbus Tee the Goldilocks of running shirts, but it’s more like the perfect chameleon of running shirts. We’ve been huge fans of Polartec’s Delta™ fabric, which features a highly three-dimensional honeycomb weave, since the fabric was first used in an Outdoor Research running shirt some years back. This shirt does right by the Delta™ fabric, with no extra bells and whistles getting in the way of the fabric’s performance.
This shirt works across a huge range of temperatures. On hot days, it wicks away moisture, is never clingy, and stays surprisingly cool despite feeling like it is made of a thicker fabric. On cold days, it’s a terrific extra layer to add warmth atop or under a long sleeve, and then it works fine as a single layer in merely cool temperatures, should you warm up during your run. And on those perfect weather days, it’s the perfect tee.
All in all, the Ultimate Direction Nimbus Tee is a simple shirt that excels across a wide range of conditions.
Honorable Mention: Rab Sonic Ultra Tee ($40)
Best Wool Running Shirt for Men: Black Diamond Rhythm T-Shirt ($90)
If one category of short-sleeve shirts has seen the biggest advances over the past decade, it’s wool-blend shirts. They’ve gone from heavy shirts that might be a good fit for a few shoulder-season runs to an anytime option. Such is the case with the Black Diamond Rhythm T-Shirt, made of NuYarn fabric. This 57% nylon, 43% merino wool shirt is light enough to wear on warm runs and warm enough to wear on cool runs. This mix of nylon and merino provides 35% more stretch than a normal merino shirt and can dry significantly faster.
It gets the nod over a few other excellent options due to its slightly horizontal-ribbed structure that keeps it from being clingy in warm conditions and helps trap air for insulation in cool conditions. When the biggest ding on a running shirt is that you may too often find yourself pulling it out to wear casually, you know you have a winner.
Honorable Mentions: Patagonia Capilene Cool Merino Shirt ($60) and Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralite Short Sleeve ($50)
Best Hot Weather Running Shirt for Men: Montbell Cool Light T ($45)
The Montbell Cool Light T is a delight to wear during runs on hot days. The fabric is silkweight, but not silky at all. Barely perceivable structure in the fabric keeps it lightly in contact with the body to wick away sweat without being clingy. Also notable is that the micro-structure is tiny enough so as to not trap heat. The shirt’s simple, classic cut and design just work, in the best way. There are no complications or that over designed “features” to get in the way of the shirt’s performance or your comfort.
At the moment, the only notable downside of the shirt is that it’s only available in darker colors, whereas a mostly white option was previously available.
Honorable Mention: rabbit EZ Perf Tee ($45)
Best Snap Running Shirt for Men: rabbit High Country SS ($68)
We love a good Western-style snap shirt. Easy on, easy off, it is highly configurable with various snaps to be done or undone and a collar that you can flip up for a bit of extra sun protection. Over the years, we’ve logged plenty of miles with a Patagonia snap shirt that was developed for their trail running line but was ultimately released in their fly fishing line. That shirt confirmed my suspicion that a technical snap shirt is a great option for trail running.
Fast forward to today, and there’s the sweet rabbit High Country SS shirt. Launched in 2021, this shirt instantly caught our eye as a running snap shirts made with lightweight technical fabric consisting of 88% recycled polyester and 12% spandex, perfect for drying quickly. The first iteration of the High Country SS short-sleeve shirt performed excellently and looked great in rabbit’s plaid. However, it was only available in dark blue, which could run a little hot in bright sun on warm days. This year, the shirt comes in multiple lighter colors, all of which run noticeably cooler.
All in all, the rabbit High Country SS is a fully capable running shirt that you can wear anywhere.
Best Budget Running Shirt for Men: Under Armour Streaker Run Short Sleeve ($35)
The Under Armour Streaker Run Short Sleeve delivers a heck of a high-performance shirt for a very reasonable price. It feels cool in the heat, doesn’t cling, even in the rain, and feels soft and light on those perfectly delicious runs as the seasons change, all for $35. With nearly all the other shirts we tested costing no less than $45, with at least half a dozen costing $80 to $100, the Under Armour Streaker Run Short Sleeve is quite the bargain.
Honorable Mention: Brooks Distance Short Sleeve ($34)
Best Cheap as Heck Running Shirt for Men: Decathlon Kalenji Run Dry+ Running T-Shirt ($17)
The Decathlon Kalenji Run Dry+ Running T-Shirt is a totally functional, silkweight technical running shirt. It’s got a solid cut, the fabric drapes far better than you’d expect from a $17 shirt, and it runs well in the heat. Underarm mesh panels increase the breathability of this 80% recycled polyester shirt. Yes, you can (and we do) run in any old T-shirt, but if all you’ve got sitting around are some cotton tees from some random event, the $17 you spend on this shirt will be a worthwhile upgrade to your running experience. As a bonus, it’s available from XS through 3XL, a wider size range than any other shirt in this guide — with the Under Armour Streaker Run Short Sleeve coming in a close second.Shop the Decathlon Kalenji Run Dry+ Running T-Shirt
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Men’s Running Shirt
Determine Your Intended Use
When we started running, the prevailing wisdom suggested a good pair of sneakers, and maybe a GPS watch, were all we needed. But along the way, dedicated trail and ultrarunners came to realize the importance of quality gear, including shirts. When considering the purchase of a shirt for running, be mindful of your intended usage.
You may be looking at a double-digit mileage training day with a pack where durability is key. Or you may be heading out on a multiday fastpacking adventure or fastest known time attempt where you probably won’t change your shirt but want to minimize the smell.
Alternatively, you might be looking at a shirt to change into after a workout for joining friends for a post-run beer or coffee. Every shirt prioritizes different qualities such as durability, style, and comfort. Figure out what you’re specifically looking for in a shirt and go from there.
Pick Out a Style That Suits You
Even though you may be traversing through mud and dirt, it’s still important to feel good about how you look out on the trail. While North American trail runners may trend more toward utilitarian-casual than their European counterparts, who tend to prefer tighter form-fitting clothes, everyone wants flattering clothing, and in a color and design that makes you feel like you.
During an outing on the trails or within your running group, you could very well see everything from a tight-fitting tech shirt to a cotton tank top to a button-down shirt — and more.
In the simplest terms, buy what makes you feel great, even if it’s not the most expensive or high-tech shirt.
Don’t Forget Comfort and Fit
In addition to looking good, you want to feel good, and the two often go hand in hand. What works for one person might not for another, so understand what fit, materials, and designs feel the best on your own body.
When choosing a shirt, prioritize the fit — after all, you are going to be wearing it for hours upon hours during your long runs. Think about your personal preference. Do you generally like loose-fitting tops that allow your skin to breathe? Or, perhaps you prefer a tight-fitting shirt to keep it from flapping around as you are traversing a windy ridge.
And it’s also important to take into account the hydration pack you most regularly use and how a particular shirt will work with the pack. You certainly don’t want a shirt that will continually bunch up underneath it.
Be Choosy About the Fabric
Some people love wool, others love spandex, while some, still, for some reason, stick with cotton — we see you! The fabric makeup of a shirt has a lot to do with the goals it’s looking to achieve: anti-microbial, washability, stretch, or straight-up comfort. Each type of fabric has its own unique characteristics, and the Ultimate Direction Nimbus Tee, our choice for the best overall shirt, stood out for its high-performing fabric blend.
The merino wool of today is not your grandmother’s scratchy wool. Merino wool is a popular choice among runners, as it works well during runs in both hot and cold weather. Shirts made with merino wool are extremely breathable, wick away sweat, and are very lightweight.
Merino wool is effective because it allows the runner to brave cooler temperatures. Its fibers have insulating properties that maintain body heat more effectively than cotton or other common fabrics. If you see yourself running in areas where the temperature rapidly changes, a shirt with merino wool could be a good solution for staying warm.
Our top pick for wool shirts is the Black Diamond Rhythm T-Shirt, made with 43% wool and 57% nylon.
Conversely, cotton is known for trapping moisture. A sweaty shirt combined with heat and friction could very likely lead to chafing. Still, some runners opt for a cotton shirt. If you choose this direction, do so at your own peril — and be sure to lube up!
Another option is shirts made out of polyester. It is durable yet feels very light and breathable. When running during summer days, polyester can be a good option because it’s able to block ultraviolet rays. And you need not worry about getting caught in a rainstorm, as the polyester will keep you warm even when it gets wet.
Nylon is also a popular choice for runners. It wicks sweat efficiently, offers superior breathability, and its stretchy qualities give you freedom to move.
Be Sure to Protect Your Shoulders
No one likes to chafe. Running long distances with a pack or vest over a shirt with less-than-optimally crafted seams can lead to painful shoulders — the last thing you want to be thinking about when your feet already probably hurt! Look for shirts with flatlocked, taped, or raglan-sleeve seams to reduce chafing on your shoulders and other pack contact points.
Make Sure the Shirt Can Breathe
While people react to hot temperatures differently, it’s important for your shirt to keep you cool regardless of the temperature, humidity, and heat index. A shirt’s breathability is directly linked to its material, venting, and wicking properties. If you want a more insulating shirt for cooler days, it should still be breathable to keep sweat build-up to a minimum.
Keep the Stench Away
Many of us like to wash our running clothes after one use, but on a fastpacking adventure or road trip, that’s not always possible. For these situations, or for our sweatier friends, look for fabric that is either wool or that has been treated with antimicrobial processes to reduce smell.
Consider Drying Time
Along with breathability and smell protection, drying time comes into play on those longer endeavors or multiday trips. If you do have the ability to river-wash your shirt after a long day and need it to dry before nightfall or you just want the sweat to evaporate sooner, look for a shirt that has good wicking and quick-drying properties. Fabrics that dry rapidly include merino wool, polyester, and nylon.
Be Mindful of Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating
This is uber-important during runs that take place when the sun’s rays are at their worst, generally daytime hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) determines how much of the sun’s harmful rays can get to your skin, the rating being the inverse of the fraction of the sun’s rays that can penetrate a fabric. Most normal shirts have a UPF of 15, transmitting only 1/15th of the UV rays that hit them, but some shirts have ratings up to 50, allowing only 1/50th (2%) of ultraviolet rays to make it to your skin.
When it comes to the top performer in heat, our best hot weather shirt is the Montbell Cool Light T.
A great way that runners can express themselves is by their choice of clothing. When it comes to shirts, you can choose options that fit the exact look you seek. Do you want pockets on your shirt? A high neckline? A zipper? Eye-catching design? The sky’s the limit, and if you want your shirt to be extra creative, go for it!
Why You Should Trust Us
Our testing process began with research. We examined the breadth of products on the market from longtime favorites to the newest and most innovative products available.
In this case, we closely considered nearly 100 short-sleeve running shirts before testing 30 of them. We put these shirts through rigorous testing through the gamut of running conditions for more than a year.
We then narrowed our selection down to the best running shirts for men in a variety of categories, so that you can determine what’s best for you.
Please note that in the running world product models are routinely discontinued, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often keep using our top picks in our daily running… they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this – product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures – in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing as well as research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. When we update any buyer’s guide, most of the products are likely to remain the same. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear that you’ll be using for a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Running Shirts for Men
Can I run in a cotton shirt?
It’s totally up to you, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Cotton is heavy, holds sweat and other moisture, and stretches out easily. For the most comfortable run, leave the cotton shirts for the post-workout tavern gathering.
What kind of material should I look for in a good running shirt?
It depends on what you want the shirt for, but in general, look for material that is breathable, moisture wicking, smell reducing, and smooth against the skin for the most comfortable experience. As detailed in this article, merino wool covers a lot of the bases more effectively than other types of fabric.
Is wool a good choice for warm weather?
While it might feel a bit itchy against your skin to start off, the merino wool of today is not like the wool sweaters of yore. Merino is thinner, softer, and naturally antimicrobial, so it can be a good option for warm days, as it dries quickly and also reduces smell.
Should I run in a short-sleeved shirt, tank top, or no shirt at all?
This is totally your personal preference. Some runners don’t experience much chafing while wearing a running vest or pack, so sleeves aren’t as important. You might be going out for a short run or in very hot weather and want to let your underarms breathe, so a tank top is a good option. If you don’t mind getting a tan — please wear sunscreen! — and desire ultimate breathability in warmer weather, go shirtless!
Call for Comments
- Have you tried any of the men’s running shirts included in this guide, and, if so, what were your impressions?
- Is there a great shirt we haven’t included that people should know about?